The Sunday Mail
Umari Stambuli Holy Qur’aan Speaks
THE Holy Qur’aan summarises the purpose of creation of humanity in the following declaration of The Almighty (Creator): “I have only created Jinns and Humankind that they may worship (serve) me.” (Ch 51 : v 56)
Worship of Allah is not mere formalism, nor is it restricted to the performance of certain ritual or other devotional acts. Rites and devotional acts do have their place.
However, the concept of ‘worship’ in Islam is much more comprehensive than the common meaning attached to the term. Any act is a potential act of worship if it meets two fundamental conditions – first, to be done with a ‘pure’ intention; second, to be done within the limits prescribed by God.
Even customary and mundane activities such as eating, sleeping and innocent recreation may be regarded as acts of worship if they meet the above two conditions.
An extension of this broad concept of worship is the absence in Islam of any artificial compartmentalisation of the various aspects of human life, which is seen as an integrated and interrelated whole.
It includes individual and collective pursuits – moral, social, economic, and political. Indeed, one of the main challenges of humanity is to relate and harmonise such activities under the boundaries of Divine guidance.
Vicegerent of God on earth
It is this challenge which qualifies the human race as the vicegerent of God on earth. It also makes this earthly life, in a sense, a test or trial.
“It is He (Allah) Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Ch 67 : v 2)
A person’s conception of human nature and his understanding and acceptance of the purpose of creation and the role of vicegerent determine how he sees his relationship to the natural and social order.
Being God’s vicegerent, he has a special role and responsibility to creation. Everything in the heavens and the earth has been put at the disposal of man as a trust.
Submission to the Creator
This trust requires man to live in harmony with the will of the Creator, in harmony with his own natural self, and with the needs of the rest of creation.
If man is to use the intellect and the freedom of choice bestowed to him by God Almighty, in order to acknowledge God Almighty and follow His guidance, he then lives consciously in a state of submission to Him.
Thus when man works for this universal harmony he is virtuous (has rendered submission to the Creator). On the other hand when man works against the natural order, he creates discord, injustice and evil. He becomes mean and somewhat vicious. So it is rather obvious that by virtue of the intellect and the freedom of choice given to him, man is fully responsible for whatever he does.
Total dependence on The Almighty
However, we must comprehend the fact that it is unreasonable and unnatural for man to think of himself as totally independent and self-sufficient. If a person thinks in this manner, he becomes proud and vain.
He is thus inclined to be ungrateful for the bounties he enjoys – the air he breathes and the food he eats to sustain him, the wondrous eyes and ears he uses to perceive the world around him, the subtle tongue and lips he uses to express his needs and wants as well as his inner most feelings. And being ungrateful, he is inclined to forget or to reject the truth of the existence of God Almighty.
The most important characteristic of man
In today’s world, people have developed varying ideologies with regards to the most important characteristic of a person: for some it is the colour of his skin – whether he is black, white or brown; for others, it is his economic situation – whether he is wealthy or poor; yet others think it is his social or political situation, whether he is a ruler or ruled; for others it is his social standing as an aristocrat, middle class or working class.
Quite surprisingly for some people the most important fact about a person is his birth place and the language he speaks or the tribe he belongs to, etcetera.
The most important characteristic of a person, however, is none of these. In Islam, all these have no social, economic or political significance; rather they are merely taken as signs of the creative power of God to enable people to recognise one another.
The Almighty declares “O Mankind! Indeed we have created you as male and female, and have placed you in nations and tribes that you may have mutual recognition. However, the most honourable of you, in the sight of Allah (God Almighty) is the one who is most God-conscious. Indeed Allah is The All Knowing, The Well Acquainted” (Ch 49 : v 13)
Hence, the most important characteristic of a person is whether he is conscious of his Creator, believes in Him and through that consciousness submits to Him at all times and in all circumstances.
Creation in a pure state
According to the Qur’aanic world view, man is created by God in a naturally good pure state, free from sin. He does not bear sin or guilt of his parents or his ancestors. He starts off with a clean slate.
Although God created man in a naturally good state, He also created him with the capacity or power to do both good and evil.
He gave him the freedom to choose between doing good and doing evil. The existence of good and evil therefore is closely connected with man’s freedom of choice and responsibility for his actions. “Good” may be defined as whatever is pleasing to God and therefore beneficial to man. Whereas “bad/evil” may be defined as whatever incurs the anger of God and is therefore harmful to man.
To preserve the pure and sinless state in which he was born, one of man’s main tasks is to keep away from or ward off evil. This is why the state of God consciousness (Taqwa) is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’aan as the most important quality a person should develop in this regard.
This means one must be conscious at all times not to over step the limits set by God. It works as a defence against evil and temptation. It keeps a person within the boundaries of his natural state.
Thus we see that man was created with a noble and natural purpose of acknowledging and worshipping God.
God favoured man with the power of intellect and honoured him by making him His steward on earth. Man thus enjoys an essential nobility and greatness over other creation which is coupled with a great responsibility.
- For further information on Islam or a free copy of the Holy Qur’aan, please contact:
- Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe, Council of Islamic Scholars
- Publications Department
- P.O. Box W93, Waterfalls, Harare
- Tel: 04-614078 / 614004, Fax : 04-614003
- e-mail: [email protected]